Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nuclear Disaster in Japan - workers and citizens at high risk

A media release from South Africa:
13 March 2011
Courtesy of Ace Hoffman of AceHoffman.org

The massive explosion following a cooling problem at one Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, Daiichi, has not only released radiation and other toxic compounds, but has created an untenable situation for workers at Fukushima’s other nuclear reactors nearby, called Daini, especially given that a state of emergency has been declared for five reactors at the two plants. Latest news is that a hydrogen explosion is now possible at the No. 3 reactor at Fukushima 1.

“Workers are being exposed to the ‘allowable’ annual dose of radiation every hour that they remain on site. Our hearts go out to them,” said Muna Lakhani, co-ordinator of Earthlife Africa’s Unplug Nuclear 1 campaign. The danger is not over. There are fears of another explosion as the cooling system at a second reactor has also failed, as of Sunday morning. “The measuring of Caesium at the plant indicates that a meltdown has indeed taken place, which raises the levels of radiation released to catastrophic proportions” suggested Lakhani. Latest news on Sunday confirms fears of a multiple meltdown.

The reactors have all been shut down. The reactor core remains hot for days after shutdown, however, so workers have been busy ensuring that the fuel rods do not melt down. For this the cooling systems need to be operational requiring a power source. The quake has disrupted the backup supplies of power including diesel generators. The IAEA supplied batteries and coolant in the interim. They are now flushing the highly radioactive core with seawater which will cause massive seawater contamination whilst preventing a full scale Chernobyl type meltdown. This is an act of desperation and unprecedented.

Platitudes by the Japanese government and nuclear industry suggesting that the radiation threat is minimal must be treated with great caution, as reports confirm that not only has the containment been breached, and that ‘venting’ is taking place, but also that radiation levels at about 1000 higher than normal have been measured. The 24 hr monitoring that is supposed to happen as a matter of course, has been shutdown (www/nu/pamp/index-j.html) ­ Japanese activists suggest that this is so that the public and the world at large will not be told how much radiation has and is being released” said Gray Maguire, ELA branch secretary.

It took local activists many hours to get the exclusion zone expanded from the initial 10km to 20 km, which, while not completely safe, helps limit harm to local residents.

“We call upon the nuclear industry, and the South African government, to take this disaster seriously, and abandon all nuclear plans for our country. Given that proposed sites are all along the coast, we believe that this gamble is unacceptable. Not only are sustainable and safe alternatives cheaper than nuclear power, but they are also better solutions to the creation of decent work and energy security, as well as the best solutions to limit climate change,” Lakhani states. The public should note that our existing nuclear power plant Koeberg is on a geological fault on the Cape Fold Belt with the last destructive large earthquake occurring in 1809. Interesting also is that if we were to apply the 20km exclusion/ evacuation zone (which has been applied to Fukushima) to Koeberg this would mean evacuating most of Cape Town.

There has been a history of safety problems and cover-ups by TEPCO at the Fukushima reactor complex:


South Africa is considering a ‘fleet’ of nuclear reactors, at Thyspunt, Bantamklip and additional reactors at Koeberg, at a potential cost of hundreds of billions of Rands. Yje National Nuclear Regulator has also come under fire, for not mobilising a “hazmat” team, with local activists questioning their ability to respond to a disaster at Koeberg.
Examples of problems and cover ups:

Local concerns had already been fuelled by revelations, which came to light in 2002 and 2003, that data at the plant had been deliberately falsified to comply with regulations on wastewater discharges into the sea.

In 1999, the seeming lack of controls at nuclear power plants caused widespread alarm when three workers at Tokaimura, in Ibaraki prefecture, suffered high doses of radiation and more than 100 local residents were exposed to low levels of radiation due to a “criticality” event, which is a limited, uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

It emerged that Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Company (JCO), which operated the plant, had modified its enriched uranium processing procedure, without approval from the authorities and removed various safety measures aimed at ensuring prevention of criticality.

Not long before the Tokaimura accident, on December 8, 1995, a fast-breeder reactor, known as Monju, which uses plutonium fuel instead of uranium, suffered a serious accident, which led to leakage of sodium coolant.

Issued by:

Earthlife Africa Cape Town
Unplug Nuclear 1 Campaign
Muna Lakhani

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